Ghar wapsi? Akal Takht urges Sikhs to correct ‘mistake’ of joining dera, says doors open
In 2015, the jathedar had reportedly issued a pardon to Gurmeet, who was born a Sikh and had sparked a violent row with hardliners in 2007 after he committed alleged blasphemy by dressing up as the tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh.Updated: Aug 29, 2017 20:06 IST
As Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has ended up with a 20-year jail sentence in a rape case, the Sikh temporal seat Akal Takht has opened doors of “homecoming” to Sikhs who are devotees of the Sirsa (Haryana)-headquartered sect.
“By mistake, some Sikhs had become followers of the dera by breaking away from their Gurus. In the aftermath of the court verdict, if these followers want to be taken into the fold of the Sikh mainstream, the doors are open for them,” said Takht jathedar (head) Giani Gurbachan Singh. “They will be welcomed with siropas (robes of honour) and the Panth (religion) will be there to help them in every condition,” he added, at a press conference in Amritsar on Tuesday.
It must be mentioned here that in 2015, the jathedar had reportedly issued a pardon to Gurmeet, who was born a Sikh and had sparked a violent row with hardliners in 2007 after he committed alleged blasphemy by dressing up as the tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh. That pardon was later retracted under pressure, though the jathedar denied ever having issued a pardon. The Takht in 2007 had issued a hukamnama (edict) for social boycott of the dera after the “blasphemy”.
“I did not pardon him, but only accepted an apology letter sent by the him, as per a resolution of the five Singh Sahiban (Sikh clergy comprising jathedars of all Sikh temporal seats). The decision of accepting the letter too was revoked later, keeping in view Sikh sentiments,” he said. Hitting back at those who are comparing the CBI court’s verdict against the dera chief with the Akal Takht’s purported acceptance of his apology, the jathedar said, “The Akal Takht is meant only to deal with religious cases, not criminal ones.”
He added, “The court’s judgment has not only upheld the morale of an ordinary person and strengthen trust in the judiciary, but has also cheered Sikhs whose religious sentiments were hurt by the dera chief’s act of imitating Guru Gobind Singh in 2007.”
“I have also asked the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief, Kirpal Singh Badungar, to intensify the dharam parchar (religious propagation) drive and organise congregations everywhere in Malwa region, where the dera has considerable sway. It is good news that the followers have started homecoming,” he further said.
Why people join deras, convert
He said Sikhs in the Malwa region in particular had opted to join the dera “due to lack of religious propagation” by Sikh institutions. However, he added, “There is always a section of people who give priority to their vested interests over faith. People of such psyche are wooed by such deras. This is also the reason that some Sikhs have become Christians.”
Meanwhile, he praised the Congress government of Punjab, which “has done its job well in maintaining peace in the state”. He thanked CBI special judge Jagdeep Singh who ruled in the case against the dera chief.
The jathedar also said, “Hopes have again come alive for victims of the 1984 Sikh massacre to get justice after this case.”
Asked about a row over Gurdwara Chhota Ghallughara at Kahnuwan (Gurdaspur) where office-bearers of the management were caught in a compromising position with a woman, he said president of the managing committee may have skipped the appearance before the Akal Takht on August 28 “due to some reason”, and has been given another chance to appear by September 7.
First Published: Aug 29, 2017 20:01 IST